Over a thousand community pharmacists have written to the prime minister asking him to intervene as the sector faces financial ruin in the wake of Covid-19, a national daily has reported.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, they explained how NHS payments, including the cash injection of £300 million as advanced payment, do not make up for the shortfall of what pharmacies have already spent during the coronavirus crisis.
“While we welcome recent comments from the government recognising the role that pharmacies are playing, we need to see these supportive words backed up with further concrete action,” they wrote, highlighting how the sector stayed open whilst continuing to see patients and supply vital medicines since the start of the pandemic.
“We are putting ourselves at risk every day to help keep Britain healthy,” the letter from members of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) added.
The Times pointed out in a report today (May 26) that small community pharmacies “have been operating at loss over the past three months,” because of higher drug bills, overtime payments and costs for personal protective equipment that is free to other parts of the NHS. Community pharmacists have long complained that the PPE kits provided by Public Health England have been inadequate.
The paper quoted Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the NPA, as saying that many of the pharmacy body’s members would have been “better off if they’d closed their doors to the public” instead of bearing a “heavy burden” for their role in tackling the crisis.
National pharmacy bodies have told The Times of the huge frustration there were within the sector at ministers paying tribute to community pharmacy in public on one hand, while the Treasury trying to reclaim the £300 million on the other.
The report explained that although pharmacies were allowed to stay open, their retail sales only amounted to about 10 per cent of total revenues, which resulted in many reporting a drop in sales since the start of the pandemic.
“The £300 million was handed over because in the weeks before the lockdown was announced pharmacists were struggling because of customers stockpiling medicines. This led to wholesale price increases of many prescription medicines above the amount they are reimbursed by the NHS,” The Times wrote.
“More recent NHS payments do not make up for the shortfall of what pharmacies have already spent on drugs and, they claim, they are in effect being asked to subsidise the health service,” it added.